tv [untitled] April 28, 2012 5:00pm-5:30pm EDT
and after voe cats -- why do you suppose that was the case? joint tenures. >> i think the most likely to be confused would have been justice suitor and breyer. >> because they look something alike and that could have confused people. >> i think you never would have followed justice ginsburg. >> there were some misstams up there and one time, it was one of my former law clerks who made the mistake. he knew who was -- gets so nervous up there that anything can happen. >> he was a form er solis terro general, a law professor. >> it is a tense time for the advocates. i'm sure. and they get up there and are so concerned about everything. that anything can slip out in
terms of calling names. >> your comment about justices suitor and breyer reminds me of a story justice suitor likes to tell. he was out to dinner and somebody came up and said, oh, justice breyer, i think you are the great eest justice on the court. can you tell me, who is your favorite justice on the court. justice suitor said i think by far is greate eses esest intell david suitor. >> you know this story about the national association of women judges, a reception after my appointment and they presented us with t-shirts. sandra's read, i'm sandra, not ruth. >> i once saw an argument where the lawyer confused two women.
i'm not sure, i think it was when you were on the court. so i think it might have been justice ginsburg and sotomayor that were confused. and then 20 minutes later, the same lawyer confused two men on the court. >> oh, gosh. >> and i think the second was purposeful. i think he realized he had done it once and darned if he wasn't going to do it again gender neutrally. >> that's funny. >> that's the difference that three makes because we haven't been confused. the three of us have not been confused. >> i thought it had happened once. >> i think it was you and i. >> but that is also understandable because we flank the two ends of the court and i'm told that you can't always hear where the two voices are coming from. so i'm giving them an excuse. >> what were your biggest challenges in joining the court? all of you probably had different kind of challenges,
but justice o'connor, you being the trail blazer. >> well, trying to write opinions that not only deal with the issues, but in a way that is useful and will be challenges. many of these issues are issues that are ones where the lower courts have been in total disagreement and sometimes for a long time. and when you have to put down an paper permanently the tests that you're going to apply and see how it works, that's a challenge every single time. you want to do it well and you won't know until many years have gone by how well you've
succeeded. you can't tell instantly. >> for me, opinion writing wasn't new to this. i had been on the court for ten years. what was new was the death penalty cases. i had no idea that the supreme court deals with so many 11th hour applications for stays. >> yes, yes. >> and it was a whole new -- >> justice sotomayor? >> it was walking into a continuously running conversation. that you're a newcomer to. i can't say how many conferences my first year a justice would explain his and sometimes her position and i thought their explanation would be coming out of left field and it would take
justice stephens or sometimes alito to lean over and say this has to do with this deal they have about x, y, z that wasn't argued by the parties and i hadn't anticipated being part of the reasoning. and that went on frequently. i remember the first time when justice kagan came in and there was some sense of satisfaction that after a year, i could actually explain something. but it is with the same eight, nine people working together. it is a long running conversation at times and at moments, coming into the middle of it can feel just like that. >> that's a very interesting
observati observation. i remember justice brennan saying to me, he had been on the court for a couple of decades at that point. said the thing about serving so long is that you've seen all these cases before. the ongoing conversation, justice kagan, you're a veteran now after a term and a half. are you still, are there still challenges for you adjusting? >> every day's a challenge. but you know, for me, i had never been a judge before and just figuring out the mechanics of the job. i have these four clerks, what do i do with them? what's the best process for drafting an opinion? when do i read briefs? all of those things most of my colleagues had figured out what worked for them. i was very much last year and
continuing to do trial and error and experiment and figure out what work ed for me. >> servinging as solicitor general, did you find that helpful and useful? >> hugely helpful because you're just sort of looking at the court from a somewhat different advantage point, but really spending all your time thinking about those nine people and what they're doing. so sometimes i think that the job doesn't really change at l all, my life was spent trying pau persuade nine people and now -- people. >> you both served as the only female on the court during a period of time and you both i recall expressed hope for another female appointee during those time. it may be obvious and should be given this conversation, but why is it so important to our country and to the court to to
have -- >> maybe you haven't noticed, but about 51 or 52% of the population are female. and i think they notice when their public bodies are dominated by one sex. i think women care about that and they should. so i really think that's part of the deal. >> when you joined the court in 1981, the court heard 82 cases last year. >> it just shows they're not working. >> as they would say in kentucky, these young ons have it easy. >> they do. it was a devastating amount of work, i'll tell you.
because you had to go through all the petitions for search and that was new to me. i couldn't do it quickly. after many years, you've seen them before, but that was hard and then to have so many opinions to deal with. was very challenging. >> would like everyone to know that i still work -- long into the night. i don't think the job is any easier. i do think one thing has been reduced substantially. and that is in the old days when they were hearing 150 cases, you would get these terribly fractured opinions where someone would announce the judgment of the court and an opinion in which justice so and so joined part 1d and 2. i think with fewer cases,
there's less of that. >> i was say that the opinions were crisper, cleaner and easier to understand. it's probably better for the court. there are several theorys as to why the court is hearing fewer cases. everything from fewer conflicts among the circuits. differences, i guess my question is are there mechanical reasons internal to the court as to why this may be the case as well. >> i'd be interested to hear that, too. i'm not sure why the number of cases the court is granting are fewer. i think the number of petitions are high. >> i think those are increased. one of the reasons i know justices are working just as
hard because you review so many petitions. over 8,000 per year. i didn't mean to suggest you weren't working hard. >> i meant to say i'm not quite sure how you managed that number. >> i'm not sure either. >> because i know i'm at the max where i am. i know because i've looked at many of the studies and discussions about why the court is taking lesser numbers now and i wasn't sure when i read the studies that i really adhered to the reason. being a part of it now, i do think the court purposely. >> there's no conscious effort. we can't take more than x number this year so we're going turn to case down. i know that for myself, but i'm
very conscious about is this a case with proceedal vehicles or not and a lot of those cases i read from years before, the court wasn't reaching the issue they granted on because there were vehicle problems they were addressing and revolving and never reaching the substantive questions. >> there is one contributor to it that's not the whole part, was that until 1988 when you came on, sandra, there was still many must decide cases. many jurisdictional statements where the court was supposed to, jurisdiction was mandatory. for civil rights advocates, it was a great thing. you could go to a three-judge court where challenging a
statute is unconstitutional and they would go directly to the supreme court on appeal. skipping over the court of appeals. that i think, the end of the must decides. >> that must be part of the reason. there has to be some civil reasons that the numbers have dropped. that could be. >> the current court appears to be more active from question g questioninging from the bench. there have been statistics that have been gathered in that regard. is this just a different manner of judging? personality driven? does that add to the initiative to ask more questions from the
bench and communicate from each other through questions from the bench? how would you explain the increase in the number of questions from the bench during oral argument? >> maybe women ask more questions, i don't know. what do you think? >> i think it was on the rise even before there were three female justices. >> women and also the law professors. >> law professors. that's got to be it. >> when i was a new justice, justice blackmon came to see me and said ruth, i want to give you some advice that was given to me by justice black when i was a new justice. don't ask many questions because if you don't ask many questions,
you won't ask many foolish ones. >> that's good advice. >> what did you say? >> i was not intimidated by that. he was disappointed that i didn't take his advice. >> we've heard the phrase now that washington is broken and the observations made ability the legislative process, even the budget is difficult to pass. compromise appears more difficult, but that's a phrase really that's never been used to my knowledge to apply to the judiciary. why do you think the judiciary works relatively well. is it because you make decisions and not avoid them or kick them
down the road? >> we don't set our own agenda and don't have an initiating role. we get, we are totally reactive institution. we can't say oh, this is the year that we're going to take care of the fourth amendment. we react to the petitions for review, so i think that's part of it that we don't have a platform, an agenda to put forward. we are reacting to the petitions that people bring to the court. >> i think we have to explain our reasons. and not just in a cursory action. you wrote something a while back, almost every judge has an internal need or drive for
consistency. you don't want to be arbitrary yourself. and i think that makes us in some ways less reactive to sort of what's happening outside of our courtroom and to the legal issues that we're watching develop and participating. in considering. >> what would you say the attributes are of a good judge, good justice? what advice would you give the young women and men in the audience who might aspire to be a judge or justice some day? >> well, you have to think clearly, be reasonable and rational, write well and just have a sense of fairness i
think. all of those qualities come in and others as well, but it's a challenging job. to be an appellate court judge and to try to explain well your reasons for everything you do. that is very challenging. >> i asked justice o'connor if she had a role model and pointed out she was a trail blazer, probably didn't follow the path of many, but i'll ask each of the other justices. who was your role model and couple that with a question about how important it is to young women today to see you on the bench at the supreme court. >> well, sandra and i come from the era where women were simply not judges and very few women
were lawyers. >> if that. >> we never saw a woman teacher. we, there was no title 7, so employers were up front in saying that they really were not interested in hiring. a woman. for us, the change has been enormous. >> yes. total change. >> in our lifetime. >> i couldn't get a job when i got out of law school. >> well, we're all the better that you're now serving and i've mentioned this to you before, justice ginsburg. one of my best friends had you for a course in law school at columbia. said you were the best professor he ever had. >> good. >> he was not in any of justice kagan's classes. >> that's right. i didn't know anybody went to
harvard. i don't have friends that -- but well, it's so important. i think we'd all agree, to see you on the bench. you're an inspiration to not just my daughter, but to my sons. i think the way you all go about your work is wonderful for the country. justice o'connor, you have said your work was civic education, which you're now dedicated your years to is the most important work of your life. i try to debate you on that point. >> i know. at some point, but -- >> but there's been so much discussion. in public venues about the judicial branch of government and activist judges. i used to think it was a judge
that would get up and go to work in morning, but people have other ideas about activist judges. much criticism. it seemed to me it was primarily a lack of understanding about the role of the judicial branch. of course they have to decide questions we don't like and wish weren't there. but it's not the judges who are bringing these things and it's, i really thought we needed to enhance the education of young people about how our government works and the reason we got public schools in this country was with the argument that we need to teach young people about how our government worked, about the system, how it all worked and how people can interact within that system. we were finding that barely one-third of americans,
including young people, could name the three branches of government. much less say what they do. the percentages of people who understand how this system works are so small. and so there's a real job to do. we had a conference at georgetown law school and had wonderful people participate and talk about the problem and it really did boil down i think to lack of education. so i got some people together and we started a website called icivics.org and geared it to young people, middle schooler, primarily. and did it with games because young people that age spend about 40 hours a week in front of a screen. whether it's television and or computer and i only needed about an hour a week. that would be fine with me. so, we developed some games with the help of some wonderful
teachers who knew what principles needed to be included in something for that age group on a subject and we've succeeded in producing a fabulous website and i spent a lot of time trying to get it in use and we have chair people in all 50 states now and we're getting about five million hits a day. that's not nearly enough. but it's a good start. but it's taking effect and it's very effective. >> that's wonderful. wee going to devote a lot of attention and would love to work with you on that. i have to ask the first amendment question. you walk in this building. the tablet is the first amendment. we had a visitor visiting with a
friend of mine. he was from russia and walked through the building. said you know we have free speech in russia, too, but the difference here is you're free after you speak and it was a rather profound and humorous observati observation, but there is a very substantial reason for that. it's an independent judiciary that protects us. our first amendment rights and our bill of rights and distinguishes us from others. do any of you have observations about the importance of that in our system of government? >> it's tremendously important and very fragile. a cartoon after the revoluti revolutionary war, some -- being hauled off and the caption is
freedom of speech. or liberty of speech for those who speak the speech of liberty and it really is recent times, it wasn't until the last century that first amendment became a major item on the supreme court's docket. in the beginning, performance was nothing to rave about. it was the first world war i cases when people were being charged with offenses and that related to what they were saying about the country's political situation. it's in part due to some pretty great justices. starting out as defectors.
all those are the law of the land. >> i think we would all agree that the country is better off that you are serving. we're very grateful and honored that you would be here this evening and celebration of justice o'connor's 30th anniversary. >> please join me in thanking justices o'connor, ginsburg, sotomayor and kagan. >> thank you. >> we also want to thank the freedom forum. we look forward to partnering
together again. i also want to thank those of you that are members of the supreme court society that helps put on programs like that and to tell you it's not too late. there is a reception in the atri yum and with that, we are adjourned. next, a look at our recent visit to little rock, arkansas. a look at the city's history and culture. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on
cspan 3. >> all of our square miles are places that i have a great deal of affection for, but this one i would have to say is special to all of us. the old mill was built in the late 1930s. it was originally built by a developer who built the lakewood area, which is one of our residential subdivisions and it was dedicating to a bit of art. the concrete as you can see looks like petrified wood, but it's concrete. the mill was actually never an operating gristmill, but it was constructed to reflect that kind of an ambiance of the city's and
early history and milling flour, turning it into bread. it was done by an artist out of mexico. a fellow by the name of rodriguez was commissioned by the matthews family to come up and build this as part of the neighborhood and over the years, the city took it over and now operates it as one of our parks. one of the things that's interesting from a historical note is that this old mill is probably the only standing structure that was in the movie "gone with the wind." the history reflects that that got on the script list of scenes and on the opening credits, and we now claim that title from a literary standpoint. there's a lot that goes on here. you know, readings take place.